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Bonna Station in Irvington is the latest to say so long. Is Indy facing a new wave of restaurant closings?
Bonna Station, the first bar to serve mixed drinks in Irvington, has closed after 9½ months in business and on the heels of another major restaurant closing, Thr3e Wise Men brew pub in Broad Ripple.
Seventy-seat Bonna Station, a venture from tech magnate-turned food and beverage entrepreneur Chris Baggott, ended its run June 10.
“We wanted to let everyone know that we’ve made the difficult decision to close Bonna Station effective immediately,” Baggot wrote on Facebook June 10. “Unfortunately, we were just not able to find the right formula.”
“The good news is that there will be new owners (whose name I can’t share yet) that I’m sure will be a much better fit,” Baggot said, adding that more information would arrive in a couple of weeks.”
Bonna Station bar and restaurant was part of owner Chris Baggot’s Irvington business strip that includes Tyner Pond Market grocery and The Mug restaurant. The businesses are on Audubon Road between Washington Street and Bonna Avenue. (Photo: Liz Biro/IndyStar)
In response to Bonna Station’s closing, Jason Ammerman, who helped develop the restaurant that opened Aug. 29, said in a June 10 statement on Facebook that as Bonna’s first general manager he wanted to create an atmosphere for Irvington that could compete with Downtown, Fountain Square and Broad Ripple’s trending food and bar scenes.
“I believe we did just that in the beginning,” Ammerman wrote.
Ammerman said he left Bonna in December because “my direction differed greatly from the owners’ direction, respectfully.” He also noted difficulties of new-restaurant operations.
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“They say that the first year of a place is make or break time. It is so true of restaurants and bars. Bonna Station closing is no one’s fault. This industry can be brutal on new businesses,” he said, singling out Yelp reviews, which were mixed for Bonna Station.
Jason Ammerman, the General Manager of Bonna Tavern, shows the progress of his establishment, Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2018. The tavern will be the first full service bar in Irvington, selling liquor, beer, and wine, (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)
Bonna Station was part of a Baggot-owned commercial strip that still includes The Mug restaurant and Tyner Pond Market, all on Audubon Road, between Washington Street and Bonna Avenue.
Baggott, who made millions as a founder of ExactTarget, switched gears to food after reading Michael Pollan’s best-seller “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” The book explores the consequences of America’s food system. Baggott developed sustainable, free-range Tyner Pond Farm in Greenfield. The farm and others under its umbrella help stock The Mug and Tyner Pond Market. Baggot also runs ClusterTruck meal delivery service.
Before Bonna Station opened, he told IndyStar the goal was to give Irvington residents what they wanted, “a nice place where a grown-up can get a cocktail.” Cocktails had not been served in Irvington due to a late 1800s no-alcohol covenant dating to the community’s founders.
Bonna Station and Thr3e Wise Men, which locked up June 9, are among several chain and independent restaurants that have closed this year in and around Indianapolis. Meridian-Kessler fried chicken spot Crispy Bird by Indy’s Patachou Inc. restaurant group, the east side’s independent Yo Mama Roux Cajun restaurant and longtime Nickle Plate Bar & Grill in Fishers all shuttered.
Also gone are Metro Diner at Butler; Shula’s Steakhouse, Hard Rock Cafe and Broken English Downtown; Max & Irma’s in Carmel; and Primanti Bros. near Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville. In early May, Steak & Shake closed four Indianapolis locations and one in Carmel.
Scotty’s owners, Due North Holdings, have closed six of the brewhouse locations since the end of 2018. Due North also owns Thr3e Wise Men.
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Do the latest closures signal a new wave of good-byes, as happened in 2017? Probably not, Indianapolis restaurant consultant Craig Baker said.
“I still think it’s a good time to open a restaurant here, but there are certain requirements I would make sure you met.”
Baker in 2007 came to Indy, where he opened and sold three restaurants before deciding to help others plan their restaurants. He agreed with Ammerman’s assessment of first-year restaurant business trials, especially with the city’s barrage of restaurant openings. In the past year, 18 have opened or will soon Downtown alone. The popping scene is exciting for diners, but intense competition forces owners to spend more on marketing, Baker said.
They’re also scrambling for quality workers and then negotiating higher wages to secure the best hires in a tight labor market. Meantime, food costs have risen and restaurant margins remain in the single digits, Baker said.
“Starting out from scratch is going to be tough,” he said. “No one wants to pay $20 for a burger.”
Follow IndyStar food writer Liz Biro on Twitter: @lizbiro, Instagram: @lizbiro, and on Facebook. Call her at 317-444-6264.
Read or Share this story: https://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/dining/restaurants/2019/06/11/indianapolis-restaurant-closings-bonna-station-irvington-three-wise-men-broad-ripple/1416117001/